Strong Vs B and Em Vs I

Some of you may know that text that has been marked as bold or italics registers as more important than plain text on websites, according to search engines.

Matt Cutts, who heads Google's Webspam team, had released a video a couple of years ago that clears up a few questions regarding these SEO tips and techniques.

First, while you want to keep SEO in mind, you want to primarily design your site for your users. If you think it will enhance readability, then use bold or italics. Just don't over do it, it can hurt your user's experience and make crawlers think you're spamming. (You can find some more tips to help improve SEO and user's experience.)

I ran across some wrong information relating to bold and italics and wanted to clear some of that up here.

Do Bold or Italic tags increase SEO?

They both do in most cases. Search engines see that you're highlighting these terms and will put greater emphasis on them when indexing the site. How much weight they apply varies and Matt Cutts explained that Google does take this into consideration but it is very minimal overall. Like many other things, as people abuse it, it gets less weight. So use it sparingly and primarily for your users.

You have to use the actual tags in the HTML though and not just in the stylesheet (.css) file. Crawlers don't really care about formatting and I've never noticed a legitimate spider access any .css files on my sites.

Is <strong> or <b> better for SEO?

This is something I had a question about not too long ago. I never really gave it much thought and always used <b> because that's what I was accustomed to from early on. Back when I started playing around with HTML I don't even remember there being a <strong> tag.

Bottom line according to Matt Cutts, Google treats both tags the exactly the same. At least they did back in 2006 when he made the video.

The W3C recommends the use of <strong> because it conveys importance and not just formatting. Some screen readers also prefer strong over bold.

Is <em> or <i> better for SEO?

The answer to this question is the same as for bold vs strong. Google treats both the same but it is recommended to use <em> to convey emphasis and not just that you want to have the text displayed in italics. Both will give you the same visual results.

To have an accessible website stick with <strong> and <em> but don't start pulling your hair out making changes throughout your site in the hopes of increasing your search engine rankings.
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Anonymous said...

Yes. I also think strong and em tags work well with Google SEO. Thanks for your detailed post on this aspect!

AK Works said...

This is still a point of confusion for some people. Bold does help - a little. But it comes back to user experience. Does it help?

In my experience, Hx headline tags are more useful. But, bolding words won't hurt.

I like to keep to 1 or 2 bold points per page. Even better, try to bold and link to an internal page. As a user, that makes the experience useful, pleasant, and engaging.

Anonymous said...

The SEO benefits of either bold or italics is pretty small and I agree that it should be used more to aid in the readability of a page, which I mentioned.

That said, you should also keep in mind the SEO implications because it will enhance user experience. For example, if you're writing a post on installing laminate flooring you might want to bold the text that reads "laminate flooring underlayment" instead of a phrase that reads "blue roll thingie that you put down first". The phrase "laminate flooring underlayment" is going to be searched more often than the latter phrase and is what you want to jump out to your reader as they are skimming through the page.

I covered some more of these topics regarding how to write skimmable blog posts.

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